On his way to winning the Tour de France this summer, Team Sky’s Chris Froome faced almost-constant questions about the validity of his performance. Now he has told the Mail On Sunday that he thinks riders who use certain types of illegal performance enhancement should be thrown out of cycling forever.
“I definitely think there need to be harsher penalties for people who break the rules,” Froome told the paper. “I’m not so sure they should be allowed back into the sport at all.
Froome thinks cycling has cleaned up its act and the use of drugs and other methods to enhance performance has been reduced by systems such as the biological passport, but the sanctions could go further in clear-cut cases.
“Maybe I would implement lifetime bans for people who did blood bags or EPO, or something that you know is 100 per cent cheating,” he said. “I think in this day and age, if there are new cases, I would like to see those guys out of the sport.
“I have got faith in the testing procedures. We have had a few positives this year already and that goes to show those guys aren’t getting away with it anymore.
“Cases from 10 years ago, that doesn't concern me anymore. It was almost a different sport back then. It was so different to the sport we have today.
“I'm not going to try and justify why they did it then, but it was certainly more accepted than it is now, this day and age it's just not acceptable.'
Former World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound has said he still can’t watch the Tour de France until the UCI, which he alleges failed to tackle cycling’s drug problem, is reformed. But Froome says times have changed.
“In Dick Pound's time there wasn't the biological passport in play in the way it is today. That naturally lifts up a red flag when people do go outside natural levels.”
Froome is far from the first cyclist to call for lifetime bans for drug cheats. Those who remain sceptical of Froome's achievements will point out that Jan Ullrich, who was subsequently unmasked as a drugs cheat, made similar statements.
That Wiggins-Froome rivalry
Froome said that he feels the alleged rivalry between him and his team-mate, 2012 Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins is a bit of a media beat-up. He insists he was not attacking Wiggins in last year’s race.
“Possibly for one or two minutes out of the whole Tour de France, which is over 100 hours long, very temporarily, people may have perceived that, yes, but that wasn't the case at all,” he said
Froome portrays himself as a team player and said he will ride in support of Wiggins if it’s in the best interests of the team, and if the race has a course that favours Wiggins’ ability in the time trial over Froome’s climbing prowess.
“It is a good thing for the team, a privileged position for the team, having two Tour winners and having the possibility of being able to play those different cards,” he said.
“At the end of the day, people will need to remember, whatever race we go to, we will go there with a clear plan and, as professionals, we will stick to that plan, regardless of if we are mates or not.
“I would love to be given the opportunity again to try to go for it and I think that would depend very much on how the route is and who it suits.
“It is only right that if it is a flat time trial every second day, it suits Bradley and we ride for him, 100 per cent.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.